Posted on 17th March 2017
Gas safety legislation, as put forth by various governing bodies and international organisations, helps keep workers safe by ensuring the proper handling, storage, and transportation of potentially hazardous material. In the maritime industry, these laws and regulations protect your vessels and cargo. They also serve an important role in environmental management.
The use and transportation of gases come with certain responsibilities. Ensuring compliance with gas legislation means understanding and keeping up-to-date with the guidance issued by all regulatory bodies responsible for the area in which you and your company operate.
As an individual or business operating within these legal jurisdictions, it is essential to be aware of which gas safety standards apply to you. The most important organisational bodies responsible for creating and maintaining these standards are SOLAS and the IMO.
Following the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, concerns about maritime safety led to talks of developing an international treaty that prescribed safety and emergency equipment onboard marine vessels. Though the outbreak of WWI delayed the passage of the proposed treaty, the first version of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) set the precedent for all subsequent international treaties concerning the safety of merchant’s vessels.
The current version of the SOLAS Convention came into force in 1974 and, as of 2016, has 163 contracting States. As such, SOLAS flags approximately 99% of merchant ships with respect to gross tonnage. The Signatory flag states contracted with SOLAS must comply with minimum safety standards in the construction and operation of marine vessels, in addition to the equipment used.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN) tasked with promoting maritime safety. Originally known as the Inter-Governmental Consultative Organization (IMCO), the agency was established by an international conference in 1948. Ten years later. the IMO Convention entered into force. In 1982, the agency was renamed the IMO.
Since its establishment, the IMO has developed and maintained a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping. The topics addressed by the IMO include safety, environmental concerns, matters of law, technical cooperation, maritime security, and shipping efficiency. Today, the IMO is headquartered in London, UK and has 172 Member States, as well as 3 Associate Members.
In 2016, a number of important changes to IMO treaties entered into force. These include several SOLAS amendments, such as SOLAS regulations II-2/1, II-2/3, II-2/4, II-2/9.7, and II-2/16.3.3. They introduce the following mandatory requirements:
New SOLAS regulation II-2/16.3.3 describes operational requirements for inert gas systems and the sequence of applying the inerting medium into cargo tanks.
Regulation II-2/16.3.3 specifies that chemical tankers can begin inerting their cargo tanks after loading, if nitrogen is employed as the inerting medium. Inerting must continue until the tank is purged of all flammable vapours prior to gas freeing.
Additionally, changes to the IBC Code MSC.369(93) clarify operational procedures for new and existing chemical tankers. IMO circulars MSC.1/Circ.1501 and MSC-MEPC.5/Circ.10 further clarify mandates for chemical tankers carrying products containing oxygen-dependent inhibitors; specifically, the application of inert gas must take place before unloading, rather than before loading or during the voyage.
You can read more about pertinent gas regulations and standards at http://www.imo.org.
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